Kathy Sebright

Writer. Speaker. Believer. Runner. Truth Enthusiast.


2 Comments

Seasons change and so did I, you need not wonder why

I have this dream pretty regularly. I am running from someone who intends to do me harm but can’t get far enough away. I end up backing myself into a corner, in a dimly lit room with this beat up creaky old white door that doesn’t lock. On the other side of that door, they push and push trying to get in and I can’t hold the door closed. The intruder is powerful and strong while I am defenseless and weak. The door opens a little bit at a time and I’m screaming, using all of my force to attempt to close it but it’s just not good enough. The door opens wide and then I awaken with a jolt.

Now I’m sure some dream analyst would have a lot to say about the dream but that’s not really the point at all. The point is that no matter how many times I have this dream, I can’t change the outcome. That door is coming open whether I want it to or not. That’s kind of the way it works in the waking life too, isn’t it? Change is right there, pushing at our door while we waste precious resources of time and energy fighting it, hiding out on the other side of the door attempting to hold it back. Still it spills in a little bit at a time until its invaded the whole room and there’s no denying its presence anymore. IMG_7553.JPG

I have spent a lot of time looking for who I used to be to no avail. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find her. I was so sure that if I just kept at it eventually I’d run into her; pun intended of course. Much to my dismay, she was gone without a trace. My endeavors were fruitless. She had blown away in the wind. Only I was left. There was no old me or new me; there was absolutely nothing. I had to start all over, rebuilding this person I only had a vague recollection of. I stood broken and full of despair for what no longer existed. I didn’t know where to start and the world felt dark and shadowy beneath my feet.

What I didn’t realize was that this was always the way it was going to be.  I was never going to be able to be the same person again. We are not supposed to be. We are supposed to change. Grow. Leave little bits and pieces of ourselves in yesterday. With every heart break, success, failure, and joy, we change. It happens whether we want it to or not. It’s hard to accept that we don’t really have a say in the process, especially when the change takes you by complete surprise and leaves a gaping hole in your heart. We can deny it or we can accept it but either way, it is happening. To accept it doesn’t mean you have to like it; it just means you don’t settle in that in-between space trying to relive out all the different ways it could have or should have went. You can accept something that you really, truly hate. It will be hard. It will hurt. It will shake you to your core. It will feel like the entire world is caving in around you at times. It will be a long process, one step forward, two steps back, and then again until you gain some traction and start moving forward but you can do it.

Tony_Robbins_Quote_Change_Progress-e1345880409149Maybe that’s an overly simplistic view of change. Maybe it’s all way more complicated than accepting what has happened has really happened. Maybe I don’t understand it at all. Or maybe I’m still too sleep deprived to tell if my words are coming out right. Either way, this is what I am going to do today. This is what I want you to do with me. Give up chasing the ashes of what wasn’t. Give up clinging to the hope of what truly can’t be. Extract yourself from the tangle of webs that have held you down and still for so very long. Stand tall and believe that you are capable and worthy of moving forward. Take that step. Just one. Just for now. Just for today. Take that step and know it will be ok. Maybe not right away, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but someday, it really will be ok.


4 Comments

September is Craniofacial Awareness/Acceptance Month and here’s why it should matter to you

Maybe it won’t be your baby. Maybe it will be your neighbor’s new baby, a cousin’s baby, the baby of the checkout girl at your local supermarket, or the baby of that nice couple at church. Rest assured it will be somebody’s baby because the statistics don’t lie. 1 in 2,500 babies will be born with Craniosynostosis. I know. I know. Craniosynostosis sounds like a really long, boring, and clinical word. I have to move quickly here now because I know once I start in with the medical jargon; many people tend to lose interest.

293121_3005087664604_1543276242_nHere’s what I want you to imagine: it’s your baby. If you don’t have a baby, then it’s a baby you love such as a niece, nephew, or a friend’s child. First they are going to push your baby, your very heart and soul, away from you in a hospital crib down a long white hallway. They are going to cut open your baby’s delicate, soft, sweet smelling head from ear to ear with a zigzag incision. They are going to peel your baby’s face off all the way down to their cheekbones. I’m going to pause here for a moment to let that sink in. Honestly. Your baby’s face. They are going to saw and cut into your baby’s skull so they can break it apart. They are going to remove pieces of your baby’s skull as if it were a jigsaw puzzle. They are going to take extra care around your baby’s brain that lies underneath. They are going to mold your baby’s bones into what they want them to be so that they may function and grow the way they are supposed to. They are going to put the pieces of your baby’s skull back together with an insane amount of screws and plates. They are going to put your baby’s face back on. Lastly, they are going to sew everything back together on your baby’s battered, bruised, and bleeding head. They are going to push your very heart and soul back towards you in a hospital crib down a long white hallway and into an ICU for days. You won’t be able to breathe the first time you look at your baby after surgery. It will be like a punch straight to the stomach leaving you gasping for air and void of all words.

IMAG0312Just days after my youngest son Emmett’s first birthday, he began having seizures and wildly convulsing at random times. In those long days and weeks of ambulance rides, emergency rooms, and multiple tests, no one could tell us what was wrong with our baby. A naturally impatient person, I could tell my son was suffering so I obsessively turned to Google for answers. I spent hours poring over websites, looking up words I didn’t understand, and reading things that went way above my knowledge base until I found it. I diagnosed my son with Craniosynostosis with Google’s help. A Pediatrician, a Family Doctor, a Neurologist, and 2 Emergency Room Doctors could not help us but Google could. I don’t think we had bad Doctors, just Doctors that had never heard of this birth defect through no fault of their own. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story. Even though this is a relatively common birth defect, there are scores of medical professionals that have never even heard of it. It took over 14 months for my son to be diagnosed with the birth defect that he had been born with.

IMAG0418My son was 15 months old when he had his first surgery. It took exactly 7 hours and 26 minutes. I ran while he was in surgery, suspended in a restless state of both drive and despair. I was just as broken as his skull that drained a sickening thick, red blood day and night. No matter how often I wiped up the pools of blood at the base of his neck, they kept reappearing. His eyes were swollen shut for 8 straight days. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still hear him screaming in terror and see him holding his head tightly in his blood stained hands. He’s had 5 surgeries so far in his short life, all related to Craniosynostosis but only 3 of them were on his head and skull. Some of the additional surgeries might have been avoided all together if he had only been diagnosed early enough. If only…

imgsvr.ashx2 While Craniosynostosis is only one diagnosis covered under the blanket for Craniofacial Awareness/Acceptance, it is the one I chose to focus on because it has impacted our lives so greatly. So what exactly is it? Craniosynostosis is a birth defect of the skull. It occurs when one of the sutures in a baby’s head closes too early and changes the way the skull begins to grow, thus inhibiting brain growth in the process. The only cure for Craniosynostosis is surgery, the optimal age for it being between 6 and 12 months. There is a less invasive surgery available in some cases, but many babies face this same very extensive surgery as their only hope. Symptoms of Craniosynostosis in an infant include an unusual shaped head, a hard, raised ridge along the affected suture, and a soft spot that closed too early. Craniosynostosis can inhibit brain growth and can cause intracranial pressure, seizures, eye problems, developmental delays, and more if left uncorrected.

945865_418390074926464_583492023_nAfter all of this, you may wonder why it should matter to you.  Here is where I must call out to you with a mother’s heartfelt plea. It has to matter. It just has to. It has to matter to our trained and trusted medical staff so that they can learn more about it, how to recognize it and how to treat it in a timely manner. It can’t go the way it went for us anymore. It has to matter to other families so that we can teach our children not to point and stare at someone that looks different, but to offer a warm and accepting smile. These kids have lived a life most adults can’t even comprehend; we needn’t make their lives harder with harsh words and exclusion. It has to matter to the other parents out there so that they could identify it in their child or another child if need be, in case they were to fall between the cracks as we did.

IMG_2174-2When all is said and done, all I can do is try to get the word out, to facilitate even the smallest of change with the hope that even a small drop in the ocean of awareness will be enough to make a difference for someone else. I leave that hope in your hands.


10 Comments

It was a baby, not just a miscarriage

The first time it happened was almost 6 years ago. I was almost 10 weeks pregnant when I woke up that morning. 2 hours later I was sitting in the emergency room of a local hospital. My husband’s hand was wrapped tightly around my arm as my leg bounced nervously while we waited. A young boy sat next to us with his parents and wailed. He held a twisted bloody t-shirt over his hand. There was one of those cheap, white styrofoam coolers at his feet with what can only be assumed the rest of a missing appendage I couldn’t see under the makeshift t-shirt bandage. He had been there when we showed up and now the nurse with a wheelchair was coming to get me already. The boy wailed louder as they pushed me away and his yells about how it was his turn grew more distant. My face burned red for surpassing this poor kid in line and I fought back tears.

The nurse closed the thin, multicolored curtain to my room. They took blood samples, hooked me up to monitors, read over my chart, gave me some medication, and then sent me home with a dying baby. If they were so sure I really was going to miscarry this baby, I just wanted to go home. I didn’t want to stay there or have any procedure. I wanted my home. I curled up on the couch that night not quite believing it. My baby was still alive so maybe the medication would help. Maybe he would be ok. Maybe there would be a miracle.

No such miracle came. I was in agony. Something they didn’t tell me was how much it would hurt. Not hurt in the emotional sense of losing a baby you loved and wanted, but hurt in the real physical sense of what is happening to your body. I was holding my pillow and crying, begging for it to stop but not really wanting it to stop because that would mean my baby was gone. It took a day and a half and then it was 3am and I was crawling down the hallway on my hands and knees. The walls of the hallway tilted up at me and I was sure I was going to throw up. A sharp stab of pain sent me scrambling again and I pulled myself onto the cool bathroom floor. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt and then it didn’t hurt anymore. It was done. I was holding this tiny little baby, my baby not yet fully formed in the palm of my hand. It wasn’t just a miscarriage. It was my baby and now my baby was gone. Facebook-20150814-105806

Why would I tell you something so personal? Why would I share a moment like this? Why would I want to relive something that nearly broke me? Because I wish someone would have told me. I wish I would have known what to expect. I wish I had known that it was ok to grieve for these babies and it wasn’t shameful or wrong to love and miss someone you’ve never had the privilege of meeting alive.

It’s still quite taboo to acknowledge this baby and the one that came after and I don’t understand why. In this culture of oversharing, empowering, and talking about most everything so openly, miscarriage (and stillbirth/infant loss) are sorely under covered topics. It’s a devastating and isolating event that many do not know how to respond to. What made it even more isolating for me was the response by others, as if it didn’t matter and I was making a big deal about nothing. People told me there was probably something wrong with the baby anyhow. People told me I was young and could just have another. People told me to look on the bright side, at least it was early and I wasn’t attached. So many people just did not get it. The more overlooked the lives of my babies were, the more desperate I became to make them real and show the world they mattered. I tattooed them on my wrists. I talked about it. I organized a walk on October 15, national pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. I refused to let the world tell me they didn’t matter. They mattered to me very much. They still do.

Now is probably a good time to admit I don’t have a really good closing point. I just want to reassure you that you are not alone. I want to remind others to be gentle with their words to a grieving mother or father, even if they don’t understand. I want to fill your aching, empty arms with words of hope and love. They mattered. Your baby. My baby. Her baby. His baby. They mattered. Let your tears fall without shame for the love you have known and the love you have lost. It matters.


6 Comments

A love like a fairy tale

Happily ever after. That’s what they say, right? You’ve found the one to live out all of your days with and your storybook ending awaits.

I was downstairs running on my treadmill late that night. Our two little boys were already asleep in their beds. My husband and I had been fighting on and off for what felt like forever. Life had turned increasingly chaotic with our son’s diagnosis, a major skull surgery, another impending surgery, and the seizures that raged on with alarms going off in the middle of the night. I was falling apart at the seams with a load of what if questions and the genuine fear I felt for my son’s life. I was no longer myself. I had become an insomniac. I was spiraling into depression. I was also having what the Doctor diagnosed as panic attacks. Sometimes I was a mess, raw with all kinds of emotions that just overflowed from my very being. Sometimes I was numb, cold, and unfeeling, this person who couldn’t even pretend or allow herself to care. It was like watching a stranger act this way. I was embarrassed by this stranger and I wanted her out of my head and out of my life, but she had such a strong hold over me. broken-glass-1391033856ZOj

My husband stood next to the treadmill as I stared straight ahead, with the steady pounding of my feet to block out all of the things I didn’t want to hear. A duffle bag full of his clothes sat at his feet. The silence stretched out between us. Finally, he threw his parting words in my direction “I can’t do this with you anymore. I just can’t.” I didn’t even look up. I didn’t even flinch.  “Ok bye” I said as I continued staring straight ahead of me, running into nothingness. He slammed the door behind him and the sound of my feet started to fade away.

He was gone. It hurt. It hurt everywhere and I had to make it stop somehow. I pushed the up arrow to increase the speed on my treadmill and felt a twinge in my stomach. My entire life was unrecognizable. I was crawling in my own skin. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow a few more times, speeding up even more as my stomach churned. I was helpless. Everything felt utterly hopeless and now I was all alone. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow once again. It was too fast. Everything burned: my heart, my legs, and my stomach. I just wanted to run away. I was going to scream, I was sure of it, so I turned my head into my shoulder to muffle the sound. That’s when I threw up. I pulled the emergency stop cord and started to cry instead. Desperate, reckless, anguish poured out of me in the form of sobs. How did everything ever get so wrong?

That’s where he found me an hour later. He had come back home and I was sitting on the hard treadmill belt, puke still in my hair, and crying hysterically. I was the vision of undone. He picked me up from my treadmill and brought me to the bathroom to help clean me up as I gripped his arm. In that moment, no words were exchanged between us. Just a simple and overwhelming act of love. A love like a fairy tale. Someone that could love me when I couldn’t love myself. Someone that could take care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. Someone in pain themselves that could see how much pain I was in and still find it in themselves to care. Someone that would stand by me.

We both made a lot of mistakes attempting to navigate this new place in our life. Honestly, I have made the majority of them. It took me much longer to figure it out, to find myself again, and to trust the ground below me was steady enough to hold. It was and still very much is a learning process. I patched myself back up together as best as I could. I sought counseling. I attempted to make peace with all of the things I couldn’t control. I found my faith once again. We became a team, united and fighting battles together instead of against one another. We came out the other side even more solid in our marriage, strengthened by the dark road we had traveled.

Maybe that’s not what people had in mind when they said happily ever after. Maybe they meant flowers, exotic trips, and eloquent sonnets professing undying love. Maybe Prince Charming never attempted to leave in frustration to his shell of a bride. Maybe that fairy tale princess never threw up all over herself. Maybe that fairy tale life doesn’t look anything like ours. Or perhaps happily ever after meant something more, like a promise. Love for better or worse: way, way worse. Someone to hold you up in the halls of a hospital when your legs go weak. Someone to rinse your gross hair out for you. Someone that loves you even when you are sure you are unlovable and undeserving of such love. Someone that refuses to give up on you over and over and over again. Someone that will love you through all seasons. A love like a fairy tale.

 


4 Comments

The lies we tell ourselves

I used to think I knew what strength was. I even used to naively and perhaps arrogantly believe I was strong. I saw the road ahead of me so clearly, how my life would go, what would be next, and what I wanted to do. And then life laughed in my face. Life picked me up with its raging winds and dropped me in the middle of a strange and scary place. Like Dorothy, I was no longer in Kansas. I stood in this brand new place with the eyes of a frightened child. I didn’t know where I was, what I should do, or even where I should go next.

One day, I thought my little boy was healthy. The next day, I found out I had been wrong all along. All of my preconceived notions of strength fell to the floor along with a trail of my tears. I found myself crying and laughing at the same time in a neurosurgeon’s office, overwhelmed by all of these things I felt I needed to know but didn’t really want to know at all. I went through every emotion I never even knew I had. I was angry, filled with a white, hot rage that burned on the inside. I was terrified, frozen in place by fear at times. I was crushed, a hopeless despair that accompanied crying so hard I felt sick. I was all of these things and even more. Not once, did I feel strong. I looked at myself in the mirror and only saw a stranger staring back at me.

People were so sure I was going to stop “all that running” now that my child had this life changing diagnosis and an impending major surgery. I’m not sure why, maybe that would have been the rational response in most people. Clearly, I’ve never been most people. While everyone else still slept, I would quietly shut the front door behind me and take off running for hours at a time. Except I wasn’t just running, I was evolving. I was becoming someone else in this new place. I was becoming stronger from my brokenness. cracked-rock-background-1424232287GVz

Before my son’s diagnosis, I saw strength as solid and stoic. Unbreakable and unmovable. It was the refusal to cry at funerals or sad movies. It was the brave face, showing the world nothing could faze them. It was the ability to lock out all of the emotions that could hurt. It turns out, in doing so, that was just locking out all of the emotions that makes you human and able to experience the full spectrum of pain and joy in this world. I never realized that vulnerability could be strong but I’ve come to realize that it is. It’s so much scarier to tell the truth than it is to hide behind a smile. It’s so much harder to feel all of the pain than it is to just ignore it and let it eat away at you. It’s so much braver to admit how afraid you are instead of pretending you aren’t afraid at all. There was a time I wouldn’t have been able to read that, let alone think that, without rolling my eyes.

So what if we all told each other the truth? What if we answered “how are you” with an honest answer? What if we banished the word fine from our vocabulary? What if we said something real out loud? What if we asked others with an intent only to listen and understand? What if we decided to be brave? To be strong? To be authentic? What sort of difference could we make in ourselves? What sort of difference could we make in those around us?

Dig deep and find your strength. Then, be brave and use it.


7 Comments

Out of the darkness – 100 miles for Emmett

Facebook-20150707-033950On June 20th, almost 3 weeks ago, I ran 100 miles for “Emmett’s Endurance Event.” And then I went on vacation and then it was the Fourth of July and then I realized I never wrote about it. And as we all know, inside the mind of a writer (if I can be so bold as to call myself that these days) it’s almost as if it didn’t happen if I don’t recreate it with words. So if you are so inclined to read about my latest running adventure, for my son Emmett, and the deep dark ugly parts and the parts where I beamed with pride, read on.

I woke up on Friday, June 19th at 5:15. I didn’t have to be up until 6am, but I couldn’t sleep. I drug myself out of bed and started my pre run routine. When I got to the pile of clothes that I would start out this run with, I was transported. I stared at the white shirt with pink letters with a kind of disgusted fascination. I had bought it special for that day 3 years ago. And 3 years ago, when I stared at this same exact shirt that proudly proclaimed me as unstoppable, I felt like a fraud. I didn’t feel unstoppable, I felt afraid and nauseous and like running away. But that was then and this is now. As I put the shirt on, I knew I had grown into it. I truly believed what it said. And I say that not with arrogance or conceitedness or to pat myself on the back, but to remind myself. I am unstoppable. I have seen worse. I can do this. I can survive anything. I cannot be stopped. I will keep going. Somehow. Someway. I will. And with that in mind, I finished getting ready and took off running full of determination.

When attempting to run 100 miles, time ceases to exist. It’s just me and my legs fighting against my mind. As far as running goes, the first 10 hours were pretty uneventful. Friends came to keep me company and decorated my home base camp with all kinds of signs. I wandered around in the huge campground for a few hours, before deciding on a 5 mile route so as to never be too far away from my people and so I could be easily found.

Facebook-20150707-031330I ran and I ran and I ran. It got hot and I ran. Things hurt and I ran. I got really tired and I ran. I got cranky and I ran. I got discouraged and I ran. I got blisters and I ran. I wanted to stop running and I ran. I just kept going. That’s how you run 100 miles. There is no secret. You just keep going. You shut off everything else and just keep going. If my previous races had taught me anything, it was that once I started crying, I wouldn’t be able to stop. The dam would break and I would never be far from dissolving into hysterics at a moment’s notice. So I worked hard to keep myself together, to not lose it. I focused on my mind, shutting down all the cant’s and negative thoughts threatening to spill over. I held it together, willed the emotions back in until I was ready for them. I told myself things I wasn’t sure I really believed, but forced myself to adhere to them.

I hit 50 miles in a bit over 12 hours. More friends showed up and ran with me and they occupied my mind, kept the impending doom from setting in, and gave me a welcomed and happy distraction.  Round and round the 5 mile loop different people went with FB_IMG_1434829797093me. A group of friends sat around a campfire all night long, taking shifts running with me. I was never alone. These are my people. They don’t need to say it because they are there. They show it.

Highlights of the night include hysterical laughter with friends, high fives from groups of kids on golf carts, being scared of a bug zapper, and blinding everyone around me with my super-powered headlamp. Somewhere around 3 am, it took a turn for the worse. I was sitting on a fence, 80 miles under my belt, feeling sick to my stomach and fighting back the tears with every fiber of my being. Tony was standing next to me, urging me onwards and upwards. Facebook-20150707-031309But under the cloak of night, my resolve wavered and I couldn’t help but cry. It was too long. It was too far. I was too tired. It was too dark. It was going to be dark forever. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what exactly my husband said, nor does he as we were both sleep deprived, but it was tough love. A get up and get your butt going right now because you don’t get to stop here, kind of sentiment. Whatever it was, it pushed me to stand back up on feet that felt like they were on fire. The pain blocked out everything else. All I could feel in each step was how much it hurt. Nothing else registered, just the burning pain in my feet. A very long and very dark night ensued. A darkness so encompassing, I didn’t think I would ever see the light again. I was convinced this was it. When dawn finally broke, I felt hope. The sun rose again and it with it came my spirit. I could breathe easier in the daylight. I was not doomed to run in the darkness for the rest of my life. I had run out of the darkness, both literally and figuratively.

IMAG0010 (4)Now that it was actually June 20th, the day of Emmett’s first surgery, I allowed my mind to go back. I saw myself on that treadmill, tears streaming down my face silently, my teeth gritted in sheer effort, and a crushing despair that filled me as I waited for that blasted hospital pager to ring. Waited to hear that my baby boy had lived. Waited to hear that I could stop running. Waited to hear that everything was going to be ok. I waited and I ran, a terrified mother trying to convince herself how brave she was. I could still feel it as I ran 3 years later. Sometimes I am still that mother, trying to convince myself I am actually brave when I feel anything but. But still, as my home base came into sight, 100 miles within my grasp, I felt the brave rise up. I did not cry. I smiled and sighed with intense relief as I crossed my finish line holding Emmett’s hand. I was victorious. I really felt unstoppable. In previous races, I felt like I had merely survived 100 miles. It was a brutal assault to my body and senses. This time, I felt like I did more than just survive, I thrived. I remembered the reason I was doing this. I used it to power through what I thought I couldn’t. I finished and I smiled.  After running for 27 hours and 38 minutes, I really did run out of that darkness. Facebook-20150707-031351

We told a handful of people about Craniosynostosis in person. I told even more online. I ran to honor Emmett’s journey. And I did. I ran to remind myself I can. And I did. I ran to make a difference. And maybe I did or maybe I didn’t. But what I do know is that I have done something and that is better than nothing. And you all have made a difference to me. Every text, call, comment, and email. Everyone that shared about Emmett, helped me tell the world what Craniosynostosis is and why it matters. Everyone that has stood by me or stepped in when I needed it the most. Everyone that has cheered me on from near or far.  You are my people. You don’t need to say it. You show it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Facebook-20150707-031254


377 Comments

“She put on a lot of weight”

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years on the fourth of July. It was hot and humid here. My sweaty hair was stuck to my face. My brave little boy was in my big yellow double running stroller, the strap tied a bit too tightly around my arm digging in. My oldest son was running behind me with my husband. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people out there representing the church we attend, showing love for our community by passing out a few thousand popsicles in the parade. My face was flushed red from the heat and the exertion of running to keep up while pushing a nearly 100 pound load and simultaneously handing out popsicles with one hand while the other steered the stroller. I handed this person a popsicle, smiled, and offered a short, but enthusiastic, “Hey there!” As I turned away from them to continue, I heard ever so faintly “she put on a lot of weight.” I felt my face flame up with embarrassment. My pulse quickened like it would for an impending physical attack. I was stunned for about half a second before I realized there was no time to dwell on this. I had to keep moving and stay with my group even though I wanted to know so badly if there was going to be more to this conversation about me. FB_IMG_1436225638817

I sat with it for 2 days. I didn’t say a word to anyone about it, not even my husband, because I was embarrassed. Because I felt ashamed. Because most of all they were right. I mean yes, they were right. But in those short few seconds they saw me, they didn’t really see me. They chose to see just one thing. My weight. Not me. They only saw my weight.

I wanted to go back and tell them. All the things they didn’t see, that is. All the things they couldn’t even begin to understand. All the things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. All the things I have overcome to be here today, standing in front of them happily offering them a popsicle. All the times I almost didn’t make it. All the ways I have struggled and failed and got back up again anyhow, refusing to let that be the way it ended. So yes. Yes. I have gained weight. And it would be so easy to make excuses and justifications. This is what insomnia can do to you. This is what it looks like when you watch your heart and soul – your child suffer from unimaginable pain. This is what long term, chronic stress and worry looks like. This is what someone that has been on the edge one too many times looks like. But it wouldn’t be the whole truth. The whole truth is I have done this to myself. That’s the whole and embarrassing and painful truth. I have struggled and I have done the very best I have been able to over the years and this is where I have found myself. I have tried and tried and tried. I really have. And when all else has failed, when I have prayed and ran, and wrote and read, when I have cried and screamed and still felt the world spinning out of control in front of me, I have turned to food for comfort. And just because I have put on this weight does not make me any less of a person. It does not mean I am not worthy, not interesting, or not important.

I wanted to go back and tell them more. Like how I just ran 100 miles two weeks ago, for the third time. And while some would attempt to diminish these accomplishments because I was not “fast”, I stand proud knowing the truth of the matter. It takes a level of endurance and grit I never knew I had to run for a day and a half straight. It takes a hardened will, a determination to go forth despite the burning pain, the deep ache that settles in all of your bones, the beaten down body, and the discouraged mind. It takes dedication and passion. It’s all about heart. It’s a feat of strength, not just physically but mentally. And just because I have put on this weight does not mean I am weak, out of shape, or unhealthy.

I wanted to tell them all of this and more. I wanted to make them see how much more I am than someone who has put on weight. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. Why does it matter? Why do I care what these people think of me? Why do I look at myself in the mirror more critically after a mindless comment someone made by the side of the road? Why do we let people do this to us? Who is anyone to judge you or me that way? Why do we dismiss a compliment so easily but let an insult stick to our ribs?

So I came to a realization and that is I need to be a better friend, to myself. The next time I look at myself in the mirror before I leave, I will not throw in a biting comment about how I look. The next time I am discouraged that I cannot zip up my favorite pair of jeans, I will not berate myself. The next time I hear a less than flattering comment about myself,  I will not let it take root in me. I will not give it the satisfaction. I will dismiss it the way it should be. I will love myself more. I will look at myself the way a friend would. If I would not say it a friend, I will not say it to myself. As we all should. I will cut myself some slack and acknowledge that I really have done the best that I could. I will believe my own words. I will know that I have not failed anyone and that I am not a failure myself.

I will honestly and truly treat myself like a friend would. That’s what I want for you too. I want you to see yourself for how amazing you are. I want you to see that it does not matter if you are a few pounds heavier than you want to be. It does not make you any less beautiful. What makes you beautiful is you. Who you are. Not some arbitrary number. Not the way your critics may see you, but the way the ones that love you see you. What an amazing thing that would be FB_IMG_1430562952849– to finally see ourselves the way our loved ones do. The way we should be seen. That is the hope. That is the goal.